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Top 4 Best Ways How To Get From Arenal to Rio Celeste

How To Get to Rio Celeste From Arenal

Many tourists travel from Arenal to Rio Celeste to visit the wonderful and magical waterfall. And if you’re planning on going this route but are unsure how to make this trip, this article is for you.

I’ve helped hundreds of tourists find the best option from Arenal to Rio Celeste. And in this article, I will discuss the three main ways to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste, from public buses to hiring a private car service.

Top 4 Best Ways How To Get From Arenal to Rio Celeste

  1. Public Transportation
  2. Roundtrip Group Shuttles
  3. Private Car Service
  4. Driving (Car Rental)

Let’s dive right in:

There are four ways to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste. You can use public transportation, go on a roundtrip shuttle, hire a private transportation service, or drive a rental car. Generally, the first two options are more affordable, and the latter is more convenient.

Public transportation is the cheapest option from Arenal to Rio Celeste. However, hiring a private car service or a private shuttle is the fastest and easiest option. And going on a roundtrip shuttle is a great option when you want to visit Rio Celeste in one day, as opposed to staying overnight nearby Rio Celeste.  

Keep scrolling to find out how each option ranks against each other based on its pros and cons so that you can make the best of your trip from Arenal to Rio Celeste. 

Let’s explore each option’s pros and cons to help determine the best way for you to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste, starting by comparing prices.

Top 4 Cheapest Ways to Get From Arenal to Rio Celeste

Transportation Service Price Per Person (USD)
Public Transportation $20 – $35
Driving (Car Rental) $30 – $60
Roundtrip Shuttle $60 – $75
Private Car Service $220 – $230


  • The above rates do not include the 13% IVA tax.
  • These prices assume there is a minimum of two travelers.
  • Renting a car consists of the base rate, insurance, and fuel.
  • Prices can fluctuate throughout the year based on market conditions and demand.

Note: The above prices are estimations to give you an idea.

Keep reading more detailed information on each service and how they work.

Public Bus from Arenal To Rio Celeste

The cheapest way to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste is to use the public transportation system. However, the trip is not straightforward because no direct bus connects these destinations. You must take a taxi from Arenal to La Fortuna, followed by a bus to Upala, and then a taxi to your destination, the Rio Celeste National Park, or a nearby lodging. The whole trip will take between two and three hours

Note: If you’re planning to visit the Rio Celeste National Park from Arenal in one day, traveling by bus will not be feasible. You would arrive at the park around 9 am, giving you enough time to hike the trails before the park closes at 4 pm. However, it would not give you enough time to return to Arenal with minimal transportation since the schedules are very limited, especially in the afternoons. Skip this section and read the section called “Roundtrip Group Shuttle: Rio Celeste Day Trip From Arenal ” for more details on this scenario.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to stay in Rio Celeste rather than return to Arenal, then traveling by bus from La Fortuna to Rio Celeste is doable. And I will share the three-step process to do this now:

1. First, you must take a taxi from Arenal to the . Depending on your departure location, the taxi should cost between $10 and $20 to get to the terminal. The bus you need leaves Ciudad Quesada at 5:15 am and will stop by , you must take the 6:45 – 7 am bus from La Fortuna to Upala, which takes about two hours to reach Upala. This bus will cost about $5, and you will arrive at the arrive at the

Now that we know how long it takes to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste using public transportation let’s talk about how to make this trip much faster. 

Driving is the fastest way to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste, which will take between 1 and 2 hours. A more precise estimate will depend on the traffic conditions and your experience driving around the country. On average, tourists take 1.5 hours to go from Arenal to Rio Celeste.

Compared to all the other ways to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste, driving is one of the fastest ways, as shown in the following comparison table. 

Top 3 Fastest Options to Get from Arenal to Rio Celeste

Transportation Service How Long it Takes
Private Transfer 1.5 Hours
Driving 1 – 2 Hours
Public Bus 2 – 3 Hours

Aspects to Consider When Driving from Arenal to Rio Celeste

Let’s discuss a few drawbacks of driving in Costa Rica, which you should consider before renting a car from Arenal to Rio Celeste. 

Driving from Arenal to Rio Celeste is relatively simple. The roads are in good shape, and both destinations are in the countryside of Costa Rica, making them almost “traffic free.” However, driving in Costa Rica can be very different from how you’re used to driving at home. 

In Costa Rica, crazy local drivers, unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, and narrow roads make driving here a challenge and an overwhelming task for some

For example, it’s common to see local drivers going full speed, passing multiple vehicles on a relatively narrow road. Witnessing a car pass like that on these roads can make some drivers feel uncomfortable and anxious. 

I have witnessed this scenario many times before, and it still feels a bit uncomfortable for me. Getting past at full speed in such narrow streets means the car passing by comes very close to you, and it’s not cool. And it’s one of the main complaints I’ve heard from foreigners visiting Costa Rica for the first time. 

On the other hand, the weather conditions in Costa Rica are pretty unpredictable. Costa Rica has more than 300 microclimates (a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding a. And that means you can experience several different atmospheric conditions over a two-hour drive. 

You might leave Arenal with a clear sky when suddenly a cloud forms thirty minutes later, pouring rain all over the place. Driving under these conditions isn’t a problem from December through April (Costa Rican summertime) as there are few rain showers, and they’re not too hard.

However, it can be a big deal from May through November (Costa Rican rainy season). During this time of the year, it rains more often and much harder, especially during September and October, when heavy thunderstorms are a daily norm. Generally speaking, driving during those months is significantly challenging, even for locals, especially during the afternoons when thunderstorms often come. 

And lastly, a final aspect that makes driving in Costa Rica challenging for foreigners is the poor condition of the roads. There are many potholes, so you must be extra careful, and 100% focused when driving in our country. You will want to dodge those bad boys as they can be so sharp that they can flat your vehicle’s tire.

Flat tires do not usually cause many accidents in Costa Rica, but they can still be a hassle. Since most roads are narrow, you will need to find a safe parking stop so you can change the tire. Changing tires is not super fun, and it can be incredibly discouraging if it begins to rain in the middle of the process, as it’s happened to me a few times. 

For a relatively short drive from Arenal to Rio Celeste, the above pointers may not be a bummer for you. Nonetheless, I consider them when planning your route. Just take your time to drive slowly to dodge potholes, assume the trip will probably take you more time than the GPS estimates, and make sure you travel in the mornings when the weather is best.

Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool

After considering the above drawbacks, if you decide that renting a car is still a good option, it may be time to find a reasonable Rental Car. And I recommend using the . You can find the best car rental deals in one place. All you need to do is choose the city or Airport where you plan to pick up a car, and the Costa Rica Rental Car Comparison Tool will instantly display the best deals across the major rental car companies in Costa Rica. Give it a try. 

Arenal to Rio Celeste Private Shuttle

We have already explored how to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste using public transportation or driving a rental car. Let’s now explore another way, using a Private Shuttle.  

Booking a private car service is arguably the easiest and fastest way to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste.

Hiring a Private Transportation Service, or a “Private Shuttle,” as locals call it, is the easiest way to get from Arenal to Rio Celeste. You can arrange a specific time and place with a private shuttle, and a transportation company will pick you up and take you to your lodge in Rio Celeste. 

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer a private door-to-door service, so you can relax and enjoy the ride while we take care of the heavy lifting and drive for you. 

That way, you don’t need to worry about carrying your personal belongings around using public transportation. Neither will you need to worry about driving in a foreign country with roads that might differ significantly from the streets you’re used to riding back home. 

Instead, you arrange the pickup time and place. Then, one of our local professional drivers will pick you up with a modern vehicle to take you from your departure place in Arenal to your destination in Rio Celeste.

The only disadvantage of hiring this type of transportation service is the price. Going on a private transfer is the most comfortable, convenient, and straightforward option but also pricey. 

Depending on the pickup and dropoff places, a private transfer from Arenal to Rio Celeste will usually cost $220 for 1 to 6 passengers. And your pickup time can also influence your pricing. For example, if you want to depart La Fortuna before 7 am or after 5 pm, there is a $20 additional fee for this service. Additionally, private transfer prices will increase as demand rises, especially during the busiest days, so I recommend booking ahead. 


Getting a roundtrip shuttle from Arenal to Rio Celeste is an excellent choice for travelers planning a short, one-day visit to Rio Celeste National Park without having to drive back and forth. A modern Van with air conditioning will pick you up at your lodge in Arenal around 7 am and take you to Rio Celeste National Park. Then you will have four hours to hike the trails around the park before the shuttle returns to Arenal. 

Generally, taking a roundtrip shuttle for travelers looking for a Rio Celeste Day Trip From Arenal for an outstanding balance between convenience and time and money savings. 

Here at Arenal Tours, we offer roundtrip shuttles, where you share the shuttle service with fellow travelers and the cost, making it an excellent option for solo travelers and couples who don’t want to drive and don’t want to spend a night at Rio Celeste but still want to visit the beautiful national park. Prices for a roundtrip shuttle (includes both ways) start at $60, but it requires reservations. 

Book with us a Group Shuttle from Arenal to Rio Celeste here

Here’s the end of this article. Thank you for reading this far, and feel free to share this info with fellow travelers as you deem appropriate. Happy travels and ¡Pura Vida, amigos!

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About the Author

Daniel Lalinde

I am the founder of send us a message, and we will happily assist you! 


Use our Rental Car Comparison Tool to Find the Lowest Prices (Guaranteed) On Car Rentals To Visit Costa Rica. Choose the city or airport where you plan to pick it up, and our tool will show you the top deals in real-time.